First recognized in Belgium during the late 19th century, the Belgian Malinois was one of four varieties of Belgium Shepherd Dog having a consistent anatomy and type but differing in hair texture, color and length. Professor Adolphe Reul, described a square, medium size dog with well-set triangular ears and dark-brown eyes. Each of the four varieties was named for the region around Brussels where it was seriously developed; the short-haired fawn Malinois in the Malines region, the long-haired fawn Tervuren from the town of Tervueren, the long-coated black Groenendael from the town of Groenendael and the wire-coated fawn Laekenois from the town of Laeken. The first standard for the Belgian Shepherd Dog was adopted in 1892.
As the breed developed in Belgium, several different clubs and organizations came into being. The Berger Belge Club was founded in 1898, in opposition to the Club de Chien de Berger Belge. In 1908, a second national kennel club, the Kennel Club Belge, was founded in opposition to the Societe Royal Saint-Hubert, while in 1910 the Groenendael Club was established to promote that variety. In 1912 the Federation Cynologique International (World Canine Organization) was was established, with the Saint-Hubert society quickly joining it. All have played a role in the breed’s development in Belgium.
The first AKC mention of the Belgian Sheepdog was a small notice in the January 1908 AKC Gazette mentioning that five additional Belgian Sheepdogs had been added to the NYC police force to work with an American bred one. Two Malinois along with two Groenendael were imported into the US and registered into the AKC studbook in 1911. They were registered as German Shepherds with the affix Belgian given to their names; Belgian Blackie (AKC # 148516) and Belgian Mouche (AKC 148517). One, Belgian Blackie registered with Saint Hubert as Blackor became an early AKC champion. During the period of time from 1911 until World War II, the Malinois enjoyed American popularity with many dogs from the best Belgian bloodlines being imported and bred. There was some renewed interest after the war, but the breed did not flourish. Before 1959, the Belgian Malinois was relegated to the Miscellaneous class because there were not enough registrations to provide competition for championships. Interest in the breed increased again in 1963 with sufficient numbers having been registered with AKC for the breed to move to the working group and be eligible to compete for championships in 1965. Belgians were registered and shown as one breed in the United States until issues arose over color and inter-variety breeding. In 1959, the AKC gave each variety a separate breed status. In Europe and Canada they are still considered varieties of the Belgian Shepherd. In 1983, the Malinois was moved to the new Herding Group with any other herding breeds. In June of 1995, the AKC lifted the three generation rule on imports for all breeds. While this has increased importations, it has also complicated the Belgian “separate breeds” dilemma.
A debt of gratitude is owed to the strong supporters and founding breeders of the Belgian Malinois breed in the United States. Early breeders and kennels of note include: Antonia Diamond, Diadem; Donna Haworth, Souvenir; Dorothy Kutlik, De L’Ferme and Frank and Carol Knock – TriSorts.